Chapter One for Training

  1. What is the situation or problem?  Christians are not exempt from pain and suffering.
  2. Why does it matter? This realization causes suffering Christians to turn away from God’s healing power.
  3. How do you engage in healthy conversations about it?

            “It seems to me quite disastrous that the idea should have got about that Christianity is an other-worldly, unreal, idealistic kind of religion that suggests that if we are good we shall be happy…On the contrary, it is fiercely and even harshly realistic, insisting that…there are certain eternal achievements that made even happiness look like trash.” – Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos?

            Can we accept the philosophical idea that nothing makes bad things happen; that it just happens?  Some people cannot accept that idea.  They insist that there must be a reason for bad luck.  They convince themselves that God is cruel, or that they are being punished because they have made Him angry.  But why must there always be a reason for bad things happening?  There are many rough edges to our universe. 

            When God, in the beginning, created the heavens and the earth, He set immutable laws into effect.  Day and night; seasons and climates were begun by Him.  Things like gravity and weight, or force of nature and angles of projection; chemistry, physics and biology; animal, vegetable and mineral; they all have parts to play in our universe.  God made it all perfect in the beginning.  He also meant for man and woman to be perfect.  It might have remained so if He had not also given us free will.  But then, where would be the honor and glory for Him if we had no choice in our obedient love for or gifts to Him?

            Trying to make sense of this universe is like striking a match to see the sun!  Rather give thanks for the God who is our present comfort in times of pain and suffering.

The Suffering of God

God is sovereign over suffering and yet, in teaching unique to the Christian faith among many religions, God also made himself vulnerable and subject to suffering.  (Philippians 2:5-8).  The other side of the sovereignty of God is the suffering of God Himself. 

As Ronald Rittgers said, “holding both of these together…as paradoxical as they seem at first…is crucial to grasping the unique Christian understanding of suffering.  One of the main reasons that Christians insist that God can be trusted in the midst of suffering is because God Himself has firsthand experience of suffering.” [1]

For Discussion

  1. Can we accept the philosophical idea that nothing makes bad things happen; that it just happens? 
  2. Is all suffering a result of an unwise choice we have made?
  3. Must there always be a reason for bad things happening? 
  4. How can we reconcile the fact that we reap what we sow, and the fact that God does not MAKE bad things happen?
  5. How did God suffer?

[1] “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Timothy Keller, Copyright © 2013